Whomever doesn't deem the Mara Salvatrucha, aka MS-13 gang, a threat to our society is in denial. Their activities consist mainly of drug and arms smuggling, kidnapping, robbery, human trafficking, and murder. With close to 10,000 members in the U.S. alone, the Mara is one of the FBI’s and ICE’s biggest concerns. Most MS-13 members are immigrants who fled Central America's civil wars for inner-city Los Angeles during the 1980s. Nowadays, Mexican cartels work with gangs like MS-13 on the distribution front. This month, however, nine high-profile members were arraigned in an Atlanta federal courtroom, a major victory for law enforcement agencies.
For the past 20 years, one man has worked tirelessly to save kids from the perils of gang life. That man, Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest, is the proud founder of the largest gang intervention program in the country, Homeboy Industries, which offers job training, tattoo removal, and employment to members of enemy gangs in the Los Angeles area. As an expert on gangs and intervention approaches, Fr. Boyle has given commencement addresses at several prestigious universities, as well as spoken at conferences for teachers, social workers, criminal justice workers and others about the importance of adult attention, guidance and unconditional love in preventing youth from joining gangs.
In the new memoir, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Fr. Boyle recounts his last two decades of work, which is nothing short of extraordinary, to save the lives of these kids. It’s a surprisingly uplifting book, considering that he has buried more than 150 young people from gang-related violence.
Martin Sheen is already a fan, saying Tattoos is "an extraordinary reflection of a life totally committed to reshaping and redirecting the lives of countless young gang members."